Monday, September 12, 2005

Some emerging lessons learned in my mind:

1) It’s all about the three P’s-

Preventative measures—When you build a public work or safety structure, do it to the expectation that the structure will be there for catastrophic events like a 100-year storm. When the 25- or 50-year event comes along, the project will pay for itself by being more resistant to damage and decreasing repair and maintenance costs.

Preparation—don’t create plans that increase channels of authority. More channels create more bureaucracy. Bureaucracy, when it reaches a critical mass, protects itself from simple logic and blocks the free flow of information and resources.

Plans should be actively pruned to keep them simple and streamlined. That is how you keep a tree healthy and bearing fruit. Plans should have single points of contact with the authority, resources and logistical support to mold response to on-the-ground realities.

Pre-positioning—The machine should be set in motion and systems should be able to mobilize before an event, when possible, or during it at the latest. When human bodies are damaged, mobilizing after an event is already too late. Search and rescue teams are trained with a critical window of 72 hours. After that time, the survival probability of trapped and injured people falls away geometrically. Aid stations, supply drop off and rallying points should be decided before an event with alternatives in case those positions become unavailable.

2) Treat citizens as clients, not as flocks. Tax money is an account that set up to be cashed in during catastrophic events. Mississippi Power Company, the major electricity provider in southern Mississippi, prepositioned thousands of lineworkers to rebuild the electrical infrastructure almost immediately after it went down. Hundreds waited on the border of Georgia and other bordering states for the wind to die down so they could rush in. The reason Mississippi Power, a Southern Company subsidiary, did this was to get customers in a position to pay for power as quickly as possible. Shareholders would have it no other way. Profit incentives in this case worked better than the National Guard.

Winners and losers so far [Like SI’s Monday morning quarterback, in which Josh was quoted this morning. (Screw the Giants, go ‘Phins). Sorry, little digression]:


1) Mississippi Power for what was mentioned above and also for pre-positioning

2) U.S. Coast Guard for being on the spot. USCG’s leadership gave every crew operational flexibility to do what they needed to save lives. Respect to Vice Admiral Thad Allen.

3) Firefighters and cops for fighting the good fight when many of their own lives were destroyed.

4) Seabee naval construction battalion for sticking their heads up when the winds died down, squaring their asses away and getting onto the streets to join the fight. It was good to see Seabee heavy equipment on the street the day after the storm.

5) Citizen’s who quietly assumed the role of gods like Capt. John Ludwig, a Seatow boat captain and pilot who braved 60+ knot winds and rising surge on his little Zodiac to pull eight live and five dead from the jaws of Katrina.

“Some of the dead, they’re hands were bleeding from holding onto the roof, and what looked like the father had his arm wrapped around one of the young ones,” he remembered. “It looked like the roof collapsed on them.”

And Michael Claudel and Bobby McAlister, of Hancock County, who pulled 14 people, one a pregnant woman, two dogs and two cockatiels from house to house and room to room during the storm. They fought rising water and deadly wind to ensure everyone survived, finally breaking through a roof to drag the others through the second story window of an adjoining house.


1) FEMA for seemingly not doing any of the three P’s though that is your primary mission. Besides that, I’m not going to keep beating that dead horse. (Sorry about the clichés, Bearak)

2) Keesler Air Force Base for hiding behind your gates when your community was hurting so bad. For doing PT in the yard across the street from a shelter/ school full of poor people being evacuated for a dysentery outbreak-- and not lifting a God-damned finger. Seabees are as hardcore as you are soft.

3) I’m too pissed to continue on with the losers. I wish I could say that you know who you are, like the tv and sneaker looters, but you probably don’t.


Blogger Alice said...

You go, dude, on the straight talk! I like it.

5:46 PM  
Blogger WJB said...

Right on. Go to my blog, for some thoughts on why the Bushies did what they did (or, actually, didn't).

6:22 PM  
Blogger beagle said...

Keep up the good fight guys. I am proud to call you fellow Mississippians. Your blog and is such a welcome relief from all the major news network sensationalism. We actually have a good friend and some family that lived on the coast. Thankfully they all have their lives, but their belongings are another story. Please let us know if there is anything we can do to help from up here in Tupelo. We can ship out supplies or bring anything down to you if/when we can make the trip down there to help out. You can find contact info in my blogger profile…leave me an offline message on yahoo im or send me an email.

6:34 PM  
Blogger ~d said...

I am a Katrina survivor, too. I am fortunate enough to have the house that 5 adults have moved into since theirs no longer exist.
I just have a few questions: When Nagin announced that Saturday was a mandatory evacuation, why didn't he send out the RTA buses ( with double time ) and any hotel shuttle busses to drive through Section * housing and collect people who may not have access to news or a car, for that matter...and second of all where is Bob Breck?

8:08 PM  
Blogger Rob said...

I really enjoy your Blog keep up the good work!


9:03 PM  
Blogger Mini Me said...

I am in Denver, Co and have been involved in the housing of the evacuees here. So far I have been pretty impressed with the state, but FEMA is just unbelieveable! (and not in a good way!) People who are here and are section 8 is provided housing from the government. However, those who are not section 8 are given nothing, absolutely nothing.

Thank god for our churches - they have all joined together, with the state, to help provide housing for all evacuees for the next 6-12 months, as well as education, jobs, etc. It's an amazing effort and heart warming to see all different faiths come together to make it happen.

But WHERE IS FEMA? Every state is going to have to prepare for the evacuees the same as us and they will have no support from FEMA. It's unbelieveable. Great topic, it certainly got me in a debating mood!

10:04 PM  
Blogger AZ gal said...

I've really been enjoying your blog-wonderful photos and detailed info on the real situation. This article on the 3 P's is particularly good. Hope city planners elsewhere are reading it.

10:32 PM  
Blogger TheAntagonist said...

Gotta concur with the others, Its nice to see a non-politicized perspective on what actually happened.

As far as FEMA is concerned, want to be royally pissed off? Read this:

Keep up the good work!

1:48 AM  
Anonymous SSprite said...

There will always be that handful of people with no charater or soul. The looters need a reality check.

I feel for your plight deeply. }}}HUG{{{

2:52 AM  
Blogger Jack said...

The belief that we should treat citizens as clients unfortunately does not work in most emergency situations. People in distress and panic need to be kept under strict control. I hate to use the analogy, but once panic and desperation has set in we have no choice but to treat them like cattle. People in these situations (as was demonstrated) will not act rationally and this is the greatest threat to organized response. You admonish "Keesler Air Force Base for hiding behind your gates when your community was hurting so bad," but did you stop to consider the danger to the base or the Nation? An air base is manned by required staff for a reason. Now, let us imagine that the base set an enormous mobilization out onto the streets. What would then stop desperate storm victims from entering the base? They would likely only want food and water, but what about the potential of a person making off with and M16? The blame game is happening with unnerving frequency lately and it is unfortunate. Each person and each group has a function and in some cases deviation from their plans are beyond our understanding. I don't know why Keesler didn't send troops, but I will withhold judgment until better facts are available.
-Jack Hamm

7:27 AM  
Anonymous Jim Raynar said...

I rarely comment on a blog but this blog FAB! i'm going to bookmark you!................

8:20 AM  
Blogger TheAntagonist said...

Ssprite, I would be extremely cautious not to lump all the "looters" into a single category. I myself could not possibly imagine having to go without basic necessities in what amounted to a war zone. Yes grabbing a television or a DVD player is not only silly but highly unlawful, but taking groceries or diapers which will most likely either go bad or be written off by the proprietors, is only common sense when it comes to survival.

10:33 AM  
Blogger Lizze said...

Very well written!

12:10 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

I've been watching this blog since the first day of the storm. It's pulled me into a very personal, catastrophic event. I just wanted to say thanks.

Huntsville, AL

1:57 PM  
Blogger nwwghiaftc said...

Thank you this exceptional blog. You are performing a valualble service to us all at a time when you are enduring unspeakable hardship. Yet you have managed to keep your composure even though you could have easily lost your perspective on everything. I am writing from dry ground, Wilmette, IL, yet you have taken me to the Gulf Coast in a way that the news media could not possibly do. Congratulations and thank you.L

2:59 PM  
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